By now Sukibayashi Jiro is probably the most famous sushi bar in the world, not just due to its exposure from the well-known documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but also thanks to President Obama’s praise for the bite-sized delicacies prepared by the legendary sushi master, Jiro Ono.
But even the best sushi in the world can’t satisfy everyone, it seems. A Chinese student studying in Japan recently wrote about her dining experience at the famed establishment, complaining that the food was terrible and that she got into a heated argument with the staff, seemingly hoping that by badmouthing the restaurant online her fellow countrymen would laugh along with her.
Instead she was met with a fierce backlash of comments calling her a disgrace to the country. What exactly did she do to ruffle the feathers of the Chinese netizens? More details after the break!
To be fair, the three-star Michelin-rated Sukibayashi Jiro is famous for their well-crafted sushi, not impeccable service. There have been reviews stating that old master Jiro and his team aren’t particularly friendly towards foreign customers, and it’s highly recommended to have a local or someone who can speak Japanese in company on your visit as the staff only speak minimal English. That being said, we doubt that sushi experts jump into an argument with their foreign visitors for no reason.
In the page-long rant on the 23-year-old Chinese student Chuhan Lin’s Weibo account, what started the first spark was a line that mentioned that Lin and her four friends, all Chinese, turned up at the restaurant in Roppongi (a two-star branch managed by Master Jiro’s son, Takashi) 40 minutes late and didn’t even utter a word of apology, reasoning that they were too rushed.
▼ Chuhan Lin
More trouble ensued when one of Lin’s friends attempted to open the common locker within the restaurant – which also held other patrons’ belongings – to retrieve her wallet without seeking assistance or permission from the staff. She was apparently told off for doing so, and, whether or not the language barrier was partly to blame, the incident ended up with both parties decidedly irked.
The trouble didn’t quite end there, though. It turns out that two of Lin’s friends could not stomach raw food.
As most people know, the vast majority of sushi toppings include raw fish, clams or some other form of edible goodness from the sea. Lin’s friends found the Japanese delicacy incredibly hard to swallow, and after testing their limits with two pieces of fishy sushi, apparently exited the restaurant to fill their bellies with deep-fried pork cutlets at a nearby establishment.
The remaining entourage then cancelled all the items on their pre-ordered course and asked to switch to “cooked sushi” … to go.
In response to the unusual request, the sushi master enquired, “Is sushi served cooked in your country? If you can’t handle raw food, you should have informed us when you made the reservation!” Possibly feeling humiliated for being questioned, Lin then retorted, “Who knew!? I didn’t make the reservation!” Lin expressed her outrage in her post, writing, “If we were Abe! If we were Obama! Would he dare to show such an attitude?”
What started off as a rage rant on Weibo soon escalated to public shaming, however, with legions of netizens flaming Lin and calling her a “national disgrace.” It wasn’t long before she took down the post due to the aggressive comments.
▼ Chuhan Lin’s follow-up posts on Weibo.
On 27 April, Lin posted an update on Weibo to address several questions from netizens. She explained that she only went to the sushi bar as it was part of her job and that it wasn’t her choice of restaurant, though she admitted that she was in the wrong for arriving 40 minutes late and not apologizing. She also mentioned that the request to change their items to sushi made with cooked ingredients was in an attempt to minimize food wastage, and has not expected her request to cause further miscommunication and misunderstanding. Lin also admitted that she deleted her previous rant post because “the whole world is scolding me.”
The next day, the Chinese student wrote that after reading through all the comments and responses to her previous post, she visited the sushi bar in Roppongi again to apologize for her earlier behavior.
In her post, she also mentioned that the sushi master explained that they prepare the ingredients according to the number of guests they are expecting daily in order to ensure that each and every diner would be able to enjoy the freshest delicacies. After ironing out their cultural differences and understanding Lin’s circumstances, he smiled and kindly told her to visit them again when she has acquired a taste for sushi.
As the old saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It might be difficult to completely understand and adapt to cultural habits, be it in Japan, Rome, or anywhere else, but just as we wouldn’t appreciate foreign visitors doing outrageous things in our homeland, it wouldn’t hurt to do a little research before visiting other countries to avoid doing anything out of line in foreign lands.
When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to ask. Or, read a certain Tokyo-based news site regularly to load up on some information about Japan from a foreigner’s persepective!